Paul Greenberg

Some things still surprise. Even about politicians. Barney Frank, for example. He's just come out for disbanding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Yes, that Barney Frank. The very same. The chairman of the House Financial Committee and the moving force -- indeed, the uncontrollable force -- behind Fannie and Freddie, those terrible twins and financial tumors whose bad loans led to the meltdown of the housing market. And then to general panic as banks, insurers and investment firms followed suit.

Now this same Barney Frank has come out for putting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, his old sweethearts, out of their and the taxpayers' misery. Chairman Frank needs to be told that somebody is making perfectly sane policy recommendations in his name. At last.

This isn't at all like the man. Or the rest of the Great Thinkers who for years explained how we could all borrow our way to prosperity regardless of race, color or credit-worthiness.

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What a turnaround. It's as if Chris Dodd, the senator from Countrywide Financial, had come out against friendly loans for pols.

It's as if the Hon. Timothy Geithner, secretary of the Treasury and patron of Wall Street in that ascending order, were to come out for everybody paying his taxes on time. Or announce that he favored breaking up the United States of Goldman Sachs.

Secretary Geithner sounds as if he's all for Chairman Frank's one good idea a decade. Naturally he's in no hurry to carry it out. Would he favor disbanding Fannie and Freddie? "We are committed to propose a set of detailed reforms beginning this year." But: "I don't think we're going to be able to legislate that until that process can start until next year, because it's just a complicated thing to get right."

Mr. Geithner seems unable to make a clear decision unless he's in panic mode. And then it may be a bad one. The atrocious this administration can accomplish in a New York minute, the sensible takes a little longer, like forever. With this bunch, anything worth doing is worth delaying.

It's not that this administration lacks good people. It's just so easy to easy to forget that they're there. They tend to disappear from view for long periods of time. The other day, good old Paul Volcker -- Ronald Reagan's old chairman of the Federal Reserve -- suddenly turned up. Usually he's the man who isn't there. Technically, he's an economic adviser to the president. He must be the one in charge of offering good advice that's never taken.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.